A new art exhibition devoted to the Thames Estuary has opened at the Museum of London Docklands on the Isle of Dogs.

Estuary  comprises the work of 12 London-based artists, each inspired by the Thames Estuary. The free exhibition brings together photography, painting, printmaking and film from the last thirty years.

Part of its tenth anniversary, it is the largest contemporary art exhibition to be held by the museum in its grade-one listed Georgian warehouse next to Canary Wharf and is open until October.

Francis Marshall, Senior Curator for Estuary said, “By bringing together these contemporary pieces we hope to give a sense of just what an extraordinary landscape London has on its doorstep and to explore some of the issues which characterise the city’s relationship with the Estuary today.”

Among the exhibits: A new film by Nikolaj Bendix Skyum Larsen entitled Portrait of a River  which proceeds downriver, weaving together fragments and traces of the people and the places that define the character of the Estuary. Conceived as a work in several parts, it will add new 'chapters' over the course of the exhibition.

Christiane Baumgartner’s Medway (2013) has also been especially commissioned for Estuary, combining traditional printmaking techniques with her own photographs.

Giving the Estuary a sense of place is explored in film, for example by John Smith in Horizon (Five Pounds a Belgian) (2012) (commissioned by Turner Contemporary, Margate) in Andrew Kötting’s Jaunt (1995) and in William Raban’s Thames Film (1986), which retraces Thomas Pennant's 1787 Journey from London to Dover.

William Raban added, “I am delighted that a version of Thames Film will be shown in the Museum of London Docklands Estuary exhibition. The appearance of the river has changed dramatically in the intervening 27 years but essentially the power of the river remains timeless and will always be a rich source of inspiration for artists."

Other artists also use the river to meditate on London’s history. Stephen Turner’s remarkable Seafort Project (2005) is the result of his 36 day residence alone on the derelict searchlight tower of the Shivering Sands Seafort. This Maunsell fort was one of the military platforms built in the Estuary as defence against Luftwaffe squadrons during World War II.

Historically, the Estuary also served as a playground for Londoners and Simon Robert reflects a contemporary view of pleasure-seeking with his Southend (2010) photograph of the popular seaside resort from his Pierdom series. Michael Andrews’ two images Thames Painting: The Estuary (1994-95) and Study for The Estuary (1994)also capture the mood of the river, based on material gathered during trips to Canvey Island, combined with 19th century photographs of the river. 

Meanwhile as artists explore the relationship between London and the Estuary, a mini exhibition will consider the current debates surrounding the controversial Estuary airport proposal (opening in July 2013).

Story dated May 28th 2013.


Watch a video about the Estuary exhibition

And look behind the scenes



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